Combing through Woody Allen's filmography back-to-back has revealed many gems to me that I was not expecting. The best of this undiscovered gems so far is Broadway Danny Rose. Whether it be in person or on the internet, I haven't run across too many people who cite Broadway Danny Rose as a favorite Woody Allen film, yet here I am three days after watching it for the first time and I can't get it out of my head. There is so much to like about Broadway Danny Rose that I am mesmerized I haven't heard more about it. The 1984 film written/directed by and starring Woody Allen follows Allen as a Broadway talent agent hopelessly trying to keep his best client. In what turns into a cat-and-mouse game of mistaken identity, Broadway Danny Rose is a hilarious take on philosophical ideas and one that may be among the director's best work.
At the Carnegie Deli, one afternoon a table of comics are reminiscing about their professional lives. The conversation turns to someone they all know, Danny Rose (Woody Allen) and an incident involving him that took place 10 years prior. Danny is a talent agent who represents the clients that are unable to get better representation. His clients always leave him once they develop their acts, despite his desperate attempts to continue representing them. One such client, Lou Canova (Nick Apollo Forte) is loyal to Danny Rose until his girlfriend Tina Vitale (Mia Farrow) convinces him he can find someone better. On the night before a big performance, Tina suddenly is reluctant to go to the show, finding a conscience about dating a married man. Lou, however, is refusing to go on until Tina is there which means Danny Rose must go find her and bring her back to the venue so Lou can perform his routine. When Danny finds Tina, he also discovers that she has ties to the mafia through her ex- husband who is still involved. He is infuriated when he sees Tina with Danny Rose, who he assumes is her boyfriend. What started out as a simple pick-up and drop-off turns into Danny trying to outrun the mob and save his life.
Broadway Danny Rose may sound like a silly film about mistaken identity and the mafia, but in reality, it is actually a stunning portrait of loyalty and suffering told through humor. Danny gives his all to his clients and is constantly abandoned despite his efforts. No amount of loyalty can keep anyone with him creating a lonely life for Danny. Woody Allen delivers a wonderful line in the film in which he says: "You know what my philosophy of life is? That it's important to have some laughs, but you gotta suffer a little too, because otherwise, you miss the whole point to life." This quote speaks to the way in which Woody Allen addressed his artistic trials with the meaning of life in Broadway Danny Rose, a trial which presents itself in every film I've seen of his so far, in one way or another. Maybe I'm in the minority, but I enjoy the consistent theme of Woody Allen's films; it's a testament to Woody as an artist that he grapples with such real issues, issues that he the man faces every day, through his work. The opening of Broadway Danny Rose was perfect--the comics reminiscing and talking in the deli about the same person then seeing their story played out on screen was exceptionally well done. I expect brilliant openings from Woody Allen films at this point, and Broadway Danny Rose is among my favorite openings of Allen's films. I haven't mentioned it yet, but I am greatly enjoying the use of Black and White in Allen's films. Especially in Broadway Danny Rose, the black and white photography adds to the realization that we are witnessing a memory, while also adding brilliant character to such a hapless guy that the audience can't help but love. The entire film is beautifully shot and perfectly scored culminating in one of the most beautiful endings I have ever seen in cinema. There isn't an aspect about Broadway Danny Rose that doesn't work and I'm still trying to figure out why this isn't more often regarded as one of Woody Allen's best works.